Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's Officially Time for the White House to Find a New Fake Reason for Stalling those Pending FTAs

Back in December, an enterprising reporter asked then-White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs why the President was only advocating congressional passage of the US-Korea FTA instead of pushing full-steam-ahead on all three completed-and-signed US FTAs.  Gibbs quickly responded by blaming the FTAs' stagnation on the new "Tea Party Republicans":
Gibbs conceded Friday there was considerable Democratic opposition to the Colombia deal, adding that there are doubts about whether newly-elected, tea party-affiliated Republicans would be enthusiastic about trade pacts. Gibbs called them "not your country-club Republicans."

He added that there is no firm timeline for pushing the deal, "or, for that matter, the Panama agreement."
Gibbs certainly wasn't alone in pushing this meme.  Indeed even some on the right also ignorantly assumed that tea partiers, and the Republican politicians that they swept into office last year, were stark raving protectionists.  On the other hand, some more enlightened analysts (including your humble correspondent) quickly rebutted these unfounded allegations about the new GOP freshman class in Congress by citing not trite, partisan/media-induced stereotypes but, you know, actual facts like: (i) support for free trade is perfectly in line with Tea Party support for smaller government, lower taxes and the free market; (ii) Tea Party favorites like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, as well as Tea Party organizations like Americans for Prosperity and the Tea Party Express, loudly support free trade; and (iii) almost none of the new GOP freshmen ran on a protectionist platform.

Well, once again, we were right and they were wrong.  (Shocking, I know.)

A few weeks ago, new GOP Congressmen Tom Reed (R-NY) and Rick Berg (R-ND) drafted a letter to the White House urging President Obama to expressly support congressional efforts to pass the three pending FTAs with Colombia, Panama and South Korea within the next six months.  The full letter is available here (and some news reports are here and here).  As you can see, it's a pretty straightforward expression of broad support for free trade (and not just exports or FTAs, either), and considering that 66 of 87 - a whopping 78%! - of all GOP freshmen signed on to the Reed-Berg letter, it's abundantly clear that that the White House's and others' claims/fears about "tea party Republicans" and protectionism were totally unfounded.

Now, some critics might argue that this is hardly a resounding exclamation of GOP support for free trade because 21 frosh didn't sign the letter, but these critics would be dead wrong for several reasons, including:
  • More than three-fourths of new GOP members were willing to go out on a limb to sign a general letter supporting free trade and the pending FTAs, even though there is no actual implementing legislation on the table (and thus no pressure from leadership or tangible data/law to support their stance).  Considering the flak to which this public statement of principles will (needlessly) expose these most-vulnerable of House Members from protectionism-peddlers in the DCCC and elsewhere, and considering that the other side is pressing these very same guys to jump on the protectionism bandwagon, these numbers are pretty darn impressive.
  • If you look at the breakdown of signers and non-signers (pasted below; yellow/bold is for signers), you see pretty quickly that about 15 of the 22 non-signers are in very difficult, traditionally trade-skeptical districts (rustbelt, textiles, etc) that would make voting for an FTA pretty politically difficult in even the best of times.  So that leaves only about seven folks from states like AL, MS, NH, TN, VA, and WA that shouldn't have a lot of anti-trade constituents and thus should've signed onto the letter.  Count these folks as the only "disappointments" of the bunch, and that represents only 8% of the entire gang.  Moreover, there are several folks from trade skeptical states like Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania who did sign on. (Again, pretty darn impressive.)  Hopefully, in the coming months some of the non-signers will learn more about the issue (here's a great start), ditch the protectionist myths, Big Government and crony capitalism, and come around on the issue.  (And I strongly suspect that many of them will too if/when their votes are needed.)
  • The breakdown also shows that Tea Party favorites like Allen West, Tim Scott, Dan Benishek and Kristi Noem are all on board - another strong signal that the "Tea Party protectionism" meme is absolute bunk.
  • Finally, from a big picture perspective, this is undeniably good news for the future of not only those pending FTAs but also US trade policy more generally.  I'd guess that the Democrats that these GOP freshmen replaced were at least 75-25 against free trade (esp. those 06-08 Dem freshmen who campaigned on, and championed, protectionism - yikes were they bad), and they were probably much worse than that.  Indeed, only 4% of all House Democrats in the 110th Congress opposed the House resolution to suspend "fast track" consideration of (and effectively kill) the US-Colombia FTA.  So to get 67 new members to wholeheartedly embrace free trade is a very, very good sign.
Now, if only we could get the White House to join these new House members and strongly support a bold US free trade agenda.  Fortunately, with today's letter, the President is running out of excuses for why he can't/won't.

(And looks like the MSM needs a new excuse too.)

Alabama 2
Martha Roby (R)
Alabama 5
Mo Brooks (R)
Arizona 1
Paul Gosar (R)
Arizona 3
Ben Quayle (R)
Arizona 5
David Schweikert (R)
Arkansas 1
Rick Crawford (R)
Arkansas 2
Tim Griffin (R)
Arkansas 3
Steve Womack (R)
California 19
Jeff Denham (R)
Colorado 3
Scott Tipton (R)
Colorado 4
Cory Gardner (R)
Florida 12
Dennis A. Ross (R)
Florida 2
Steve Southerland (R)
Florida 22
Allen West (R)
Florida 24
Sandy Adams (R)
Florida 25
David Rivera (R)
Florida 5
Rich Nugent (R)
Florida 8
Daniel Webster (R)
Georgia 7
Rob Woodall (R)
Georgia 8
Austin Scott (R)
Idaho 1
Raúl Labrador (R)
Illinois 10
Robert Dold (R)
Illinois 11
Adam Kinzinger (R)
Illinois 14
Randy Hultgren (R)
Illinois 17
Bobby Schilling (R)
Illinois 8
Joe Walsh (R)
Indiana 3
Marlin Stutzman (R )
Indiana 4
Todd Rokita (R)
Indiana 8
Larry Bucshon (R)
Indiana 9
Todd Young (R)
Kansas 1
Tim Huelskamp (R)
Kansas 3
Kevin Yoder (R)
Kansas 4
Mike Pompeo (R)
Louisiana 3
Jeff Landry (R)
Maryland 1
Andy Harris (R)
Michigan 1
Dan Benishek (R)
Michigan 2
Bill Huizenga (R)
Michigan 3
Justin Amash (R)
Michigan 7
Tim Walberg (R)
Minnesota 8
Chip Cravaack (R)
Mississippi 1
Alan Nunnelee (R)
Mississippi 4
Steven Palazzo (R)
Missouri 4
Vicky Hartzler (R)
Missouri 7
Billy Long (R)
Nevada 3
Joe Heck (R)
New Hampshire 1
Frank Guinta (R)
New Hampshire 2
Charles Bass (R)
New Jersey 3
Jon Runyan (R)
New Mexico 2
Steve Pearce (R)
New York 13
Michael Grimm (R)
New York 19
Nan Hayworth (R)
New York 20
Chris Gibson (R)
New York 24
Richard Hanna (R)
New York 25
Ann Marie Buerkle (R)
New York 29
Tom Reed (R )
North Carolina 2
Renee Ellmers (R)
North Dakota AL
Rick Berg (R)
Ohio 1
Steve Chabot (R)
Ohio 15
Steve Stivers (R)
Ohio 16
Jim Renacci (R)
Ohio 18
Bob Gibbs (R)
Ohio 6
Bill Johnson (R)
Oklahoma 5
James Lankford (R)
Pennsylvania 10
Tom Marino (R)
Pennsylvania 11
Lou Barletta (R)
Pennsylvania 3
Mike Kelly (R)
Pennsylvania 7
Pat Meehan (R)
Pennsylvania 8
Mike Fitzpatrick (R)
South Carolina 1
Tim Scott (R)
South Carolina 3
Jeff Duncan (R)
South Carolina 4
Trey Gowdy (R)
South Carolina 5
Mick Mulvaney (R)
South Dakota AL
Kristi Noem (R)
Tennessee 3
Chuck Fleischmann (R)
Tennessee 4
Scott DesJarlais (R)
Tennessee 6
Diane Black (R)
Tennessee 8
Stephen Fincher (R)
Texas 17
Bill Flores (R)
Texas 23
Quico Canseco (R)
Texas 27
Blake Farenthold (R)
Virgina 9
Morgan Griffith (R)
Virginia 2
Scott Rigell (R)
Virginia 5
Robert Hurt (R)
Washington 3
Jaime Herrera Beutler (R)
West Virginia 1
David McKinley (R)
Wisconsin 7
Sean Duffy (R)
Wisconsin 8
Reid Ribble (R)


John B. said...

You may think it's perfectly fine for W&M Committee Chairman Camp to threaten Obama by saying the House won't consider the Korea FTA unless it's part of a package with Colombia and Panama, but I don't. And I don't think any reasonable person does.

Scott Lincicome said...

John, I think that you, much like the few remaining Dems in the House, are in the serious minority with that view. Everyone knows that all three FTAs could easily pass both chambers with bipartisan (and overwhelming GOP) support, but the GOP leadership knows that if they give on KORUS, Colombia and Panama are dead (and for no good reason). And let's not forget that the President, and he alone, is driving this bus on KORUS (and the other two FTAs). The GOP is just giving him an acceptable roadmap to getting it done.

It's a clear hostage situation, and the White House wants to release one hostage and sacrifice the other two (in order to appease the union gods). The GOP is using the tiny amount of leverage that it has - the knowledge that the President doesn't want his "special hostage" (KORUS) to die - in order to save ALL THREE hostages. The fate of the KORUS is in the President's hands; and he alone can decide if it lives or dies. And everyone (except you and a few other partisans) acknowledges these obvious and reasonable facts.

But hey, don't take my word for it. Here's (known Democrat) Chris Nelson from last night's Nelson Report:

IS GOP "BLOCKING" OBAMA TRADE? We had a quiet chuckle over the New York Times headline this morning on the jump page in the business section, "Obama's Trade Agenda Is Stalled by GOP Objections".

OK, it's certainly true that Alabama's Republican senator Sessions is being totally irresponsible to block GSP renewal just to protect his state's sleeping bag factory.

But to conflate the Republican effort to hold KORUS "hostage" to Obama completing and submitting both the Colombia and Panama FTA's as "stalled by GOP objections" seems to be a slight inversion of logic.

Perhaps a coming Times' headline will be "Robber Forced to Shoot Victim Who Resisted".

This isn't just semantics or even one-upmanship, which increasingly seems the coin of the day in other disputes. The House Republican Leadership has repeatedly made it clear it wants quick movement on all the pending FTA's, and that it's fed-up with House Dems, enabled by the Administration, continuing to claim that whatever progress in Colombia is never enough.

So the GOP is using the time-honored tactic of using as leverage something the White House says it wants...KORUS quickly...to try and force the White House to finish what it claims it's doing on Colombia and Panama, with little public evidence.